2016 Yukon Battle in Bluegrass Race Recap
There’s something special happening in this year’s east coast Ultra4 series. While these east born venues are among my favorite, total driver counts reaching less than half of their west coast counterparts made them feel a bit less watched in the Ultra4 grand scheme. Fast forward to 2016, east coast races are growing at the largest percentage year over year, and driver counts are reaching levels that are attracting racers as far out as California. Things are looking good for the east coast series, but they are about to get better.
It seems every series has that “one” event that doesn’t gain the traction needed to be successful. For the east, that started with Rauch Creek. A massive park, muddy and slick on its driest day, which offered a lot of what Ultra4 demands but its remote location made it difficult to draw a crowd outside of the Ultra4 family. That event got axed and replaced with the Sturgis Blowout, which combined Monster Trucks driving over school buses with a down the street Ultra4 race. The idea was a fair one, but the small short course meets 1 minute of woods racing felt a bit more like some rich kid’s birthday party than an Ultra4 race. Another ax would be on the way, and for 2016 we’d get a replacement with a venue at Dirty Turtle Off-Road Park (DTOR) in Bedford, KY, called the Battle in Bluegrass.
The park operators are no stranger to off-road Motorsports, being involved in the rock bouncing scene for many years. The goal was to bring the elements from Sturgis over but in a bigger way. This would include a short course section of racing, and what we deemed likely to be some time in the woods. We were all in the dark as to what the course would be, pictures surfacing online showed an impressive short course track, complete with a massive table top jump, but would there be more to this course and how much more? The answer certainly blew me away; I suspect it blew away many of the drivers as well.
Approximately half of mile of racing would be allocated to the short course track, and nearly 3 miles of racing would be devoted to the woods. To put this into a time perspective, this would be roughly 1 minute of short course racing vs. 7 minutes of woods racing per lap. Now that the course was understood, it came down to how long would the racing be. The schedule suggested the main 4400 race would be between 4-6pm. However, Dave would make clear that this was NOT a timed race. It was a lap race, 17 laps to be exact, and that would take as long as it would take. You better be on your A-game, or you’ll be sleeping in the woods that night.
It get’s even more intense — what made this venue so unique was the course itself. In the woods, drivers would find themselves faced with multiple lines and options to race; in one example at the bottom of a ravine drivers had three separate hills they could climb to reach the top, and enough distance separated these hills that you couldn’t easily see one from the other. There were some places like this, and as Dave said we were only taking advantage of 25% of the park.
Come race day, whatever looming concerns that existed were answered by unleashing one of the most exciting east coast races to date. I worried a bit that 17 laps of racing would separate the field so much it wouldn’t feel very competitive. That was FAR FROM THE CASE; the top five guys were battling it out up till the final lap. I think the magic here was the nature of the race playing out a bit like a choose your own adventure book; there were so many lines and options on the race track it continued to mix up the field as some race leaders got stuck with unexpected bad choices and surprise yellow flags. I saw so many drivers get “screwed” by unfortunate choices that in the big picture it seemed to level out in a fair way across the field. Coupling this with Erik Miller’s win, who started in the near back of the pack due to a roll over in qualifying, the way was paved for a history-making race.
Best I could tell, Ultra4s were given the thumbs up by the DTOR park owners during the awards ceremony, right at that time Dave invited himself and the Ultra4 family back next year. I feel comfortable in saying with this new addition, the east coast series feels complete. Between Hot Springs, Badlands, and now Battle in Bluegrass, Ultra4 drivers are given just about everything you would come to expect & demand from an Ultra4 race. The east coast series comes to an end for 2016, with that a quick congratulations to Erik Miller for taking last weekend’s win which should now bump him into 1st for National Series points. Also a quick congratulations to Clay Gilstrap for 2nd & Tom Wayes for 3rd, who along with Erik Miller are powered by Spider 9 axles & components. As always, we appreciate the support and opportunity to serve; it’s what we love to do. Next up in the Ultra4 season is the Fallon 250 on September 3rd in Fallon NV. Until then, enjoy a few photos we captured at the 2016 Battle in Bluegrass. Photos by Thom Kingston of Spidertrax, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.